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Coronavirus / Following hygiene rules best way to help reduce spread of Covid and flu, health board says

WITH winter firmly upon us, the local health board has renewed its advice that following strict hygiene rules and wearing face masks on public transport and in indoor public places is the best way to reduce the spread of viruses including Covid and seasonal flu.

People are also strongly advised to get their Covid booster and seasonal flu vaccines when invited to by local health teams.

Director of public health with NHS Shetland Dr Susan Laidlaw said: “These help to protect against serious illness and outbreaks, especially in older people and others most at risk.”

Meanwhile, NorthLink said it “strongly recommends” that face coverings are worn in terminals and public spaces on board the company’s vessels.

NHS Shetland’s director of public health Dr Susan Laidlaw.

The ferry operator said that it regularly carries out “enhanced cleaning procedure” in parts of its vessels.

It was made aware that a passenger who had recently travelled had tested positive for Covid-19.

There are no Covid restrictions in force in Scotland at the moment, meaning the wearing of face masks on public transport is recommended but it is not mandatory.

Covid number have started creeping up again over recent weeks. Latest estimates by the ZOE Health study, based at the King’s College London, suggests there are more than two million people currently symptomatic in the UK, with a high number of younger people affected.

Because there is virtually no asymptomatic testing any longer it is almost impossible to know exactly how widespread Covid is circulating in the community.

A survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that for the week up to 25 September an estimated one in 55 people in Scotland was carrying the virus.

NHS Shetland said that actual numbers in Shetland vary week to week. In the week up to 25 September, eight people tested positive and reported. The previous week the figure was two and the week before 15. 

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Dr Laidlaw said: “Many viruses spread more easily in the colder months of the year. 

“The spread of infections such as Covid, flu and norovirus can be reduced by washing hands and staying away from other people when unwell, especially those who are most vulnerable to infection.

“Taking care with respiratory hygiene (e.g., when coughing and sneezing); wearing a face covering on public transport and in indoor public places (especially healthcare settings); and having good ventilation will also all help to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses including Covid.”

Serco’s operations director at NorthLink Ferries, Captain John Strathearn, added: “As a defence against Covid-19, and in line with Scottish Government advice, we strongly recommend that face coverings are worn in our terminals and public spaces on board our ships. 

“We continue to undertake extra cleaning to sanitise our terminals and ships, ensure our ventilation system is on full fresh air, and provide regular hand sanitation points, all measures that have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic.”

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